Warning: Spoilers ahead for the The Walking Dead comics
The comic series of The Walking Dead has officially ended, fulfilling the original intentions of creator, Robert Kirkman. The Walking Dead #192 confirmed the shocking death of Rick Grimes, killed by a spoiled brat teenager in retaliation for Rick's part in overthrowing an unjust leadership regime at the Commonwealth. Naturally, the death of The Walking Dead's lead character prompted a mixed reaction from readers but, in the same issue, Robert Kirkman confirmed plans for the comics to continue, hyped up the series' new direction and implored fans for the opportunity to prove that, as with the AMC TV series, The Walking Dead can survive without Rick Grimes.
As it turns out, The Walking Dead can't survive without Rick Grimes, because issue #193 marks the final installment. In a surprise move that involved no small amount of subterfuge to keep readers off the scent, issue #193 acts as an epilogue to the main story of Robert Kirkman's famous series, set many years in the future and centered on a fully-grown Carl Grimes. The comics' fate is sealed by a letter from Kirkman which follows the final panel, explaining both his decision to end The Walking Dead and why that ending was kept a secret.
While the end of The Walking Dead certainly came out of the blue, it's something that Robert Kirkman first laid out at the very beginning of the series. Writing in the introduction to the first volume, Days Gone Bye, Kirkman states that The Walking Dead is the story of Rick Grimes, following his post-apocalyptic journey towards whatever end befalls him. Kirkman signs off with, "I want The Walking Dead to be a chronicle of years of Rick's life." This original remit sets out The Walking Dead's intentions very clearly, and may partly explain why fan reaction was so mixed when it appeared that the comics would continue without their talismanic leading figure - Kirkman had shifted from his original design.
Despite duping fans into believing otherwise, the truth is that The Walking Dead's creator has actually adhered to his original idea. While the TV adaptation may be soldiering on without Andrew Lincoln's incarnation of the character, the comic version of The Walking Dead has always been Rick Grimes' story and with the character's death also comes the end of the series as a whole, thus bringing the entire tale full circle.
In many ways, the ending itself feels poignantly cyclical. The story begins with Rick emerging from a coma and more or less ends with him becoming a zombie and having to be put down by his own son. Furthermore, one of the central themes explored in issue #193 is how the rebuilt world gradually falls victim to the same complacency people were guilty of before the outbreak, once again representing a roundabout return to the origins of the series.
Many readers will undoubtedly be disappointed to be leaving the bloody, fictional world of The Walking Dead behind, perhaps even more so since they had no time to emotionally ready themselves for the final chapter. However, continuing the comics without Rick was always going to be a tall order and could've put the legacy of the entire series at risk. Bringing The Walking Dead to a close now ensures that the legend of Rick Grimes doesn't just reverberate throughout the zombie apocalypse, but also in the real world.
The Walking Dead season 10 is expected to premiere in October on AMC.